Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

When Bruce Springsteen released his debut album in 1973, Columbia Records thought it had finally found the "new Dylan" their marketing department was looking for, and in a sense, they had if you consider the magnitude of Springsteen's talent and performing abilities. What his debut lacks in precision is made up for in sheer nerve and enthusiasm. Bruce could swing wild — "Blinded by the Light," "Mary Queen of Arkansas" — but when he connected with something as knowing and poignant as the adolescent-contrarian beauty of"Growin' Up," the heart-stopping streetfight of "Lost in the Flood," or the joyous summer party anthem "Spirit in the Night," he was well on his way to creating a private world that was universal in its appeal. Though he was being promoted at the time as a bit of a folkie, his rock roots are everywhere. The E Street Band here is a motley lot. Drummer Vincent Lopez sounds fueled by methamphetamine, while pianist David Sancious lends a dignified sophistication. Their playing perfectly offsets the ragged, emotionally naked singing that makes Springsteen sound like a man caught up in rapture. An essential debut.

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